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Lawrence "Shabu" Mwangi, artist,  photographer

Lawrence “Shabu” Mwangi, artist, photographer

By Lawrence “Shabu” Mwangi
Winner of IBM’s The World is Our Lab – Africa Photo Competition

I was born and have lived in the Mukuru slums in Nairobi, Kenya, for most of my life. I have witnessed first-hand the challenges to mental, emotional well – being and all kinds of challenges – some of which I can’t categorize.

I was strong enough to go through all that, but I had my weaknesses which overcame me at points. Still, I remained focused with whom I wanted to be. Though I was very good in school, I didn’t take further steps with education due to my home situation and the insecure environment.

But I remained strong in my education path and still believe in education and I have been educating myself till now.

Despite all this I was able to hold on to whom I wanted to see in me – and this was an artist. Art was a tool which I knew since I was young and believed I could use as a medium to say something. In 2009 I got interested in photography and was involved in a photography workshop.

Later in 2011 I wanted to join a photography school but I didn’t go through the interview. However, that was not the end of my interest in this tool. I decided to teach myself and signed myself up for a workshop offered by KUONA TRUST.

I took the picture “Digital Migration” to document the memory of an event which took place without any attention from society. The act means a lot and tells a lot about who we are. In these surroundings it is normal to come up with such role play of media presenters and this is a window in which these kids were sharing their thought and creativity.

'Digital Migration' - Photograph by Lawrence Mwangi

‘Digital Migration’ – Photograph by Lawrence Mwangi

I took it on December 24, 2013, around 11:00am outside our workshop where we offer classes for kids during school holidays and during weekends. The camera I used is a D3100 Nikon I bought myself in Germany. In the photograph, the kids are using the material around them to express themselves in a creative way.

It shows how kids can be innovative in finding ways to be happy. I found out about the contest through a friend of a friend who we happened to meet at a museum in Kenya in December. He asked me what I did and if I took photos.

What inspired me the most about the contest was that it was a platform for me to share my photos where they can be seen by others and give voice to my community through the pictures.

For me it was a way for a photographer who has no venue to start one, since it was very simple to participate. All that was needed was the creativity of the participant.

My message is that through photography the world can be seen in different perspectives of oneness and this is what IBM did: it created a platform which brought many thinkers together.

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The Story Behind My Photograph A Smarter Planet Blog

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